Before

22 May

            I walked three miles yesterday at the blistering pace of (almost) three miles an hour.  As I neared home, I pictured myself as The Flash, skin-tight red costume, wings on the hat and on the heels.  To me, this vision was quite appealing; your vision of me in a skin-tight red suit may not be exactly the same.

            Be that as it may, the walk was part of my preparation for Lee’s and my grand adventure, a cross-country drive to visit our son Gardner in (ta-da) Hollywood and to deliver a bar that his brother made for him three years ago. This bar which will fill up most of the back of our van is known as the Cash Bar. It has nothing to do with cash or selling drinks, unless Gardner wants to take up a sideline.  Instead it is carved with images of Johnny Cash and his songs.  It has a marble top and weighs just shy of ten tons. For three years it has sat in our guest bedroom, where Gardner has been able to visit it on his yearly trips home. Nobody has felt like coughing up the sizable amount of cash to have Cash sent to LA. So, on that day when aliens momentarily took control of my mind and I agreed to drive to LA, the Cash Bar found a ride.

            However, the Cash Bar is only a weak and partial excuse for this trip.  Gardner moved to LA over ten years ago.  He packed his worldy goods (save those he left in his room here in Calhoun, and those he left in a large storage unit here in Calhoun) into a 1993 Mercury Marquis with over 100,000 miles on it and set out.  The car broke down in Wetumpka. (I’ve always thought that “Broke Down in Wetumpka” could be the title for a country song.) But, even though we encouraged him to come back home and try for a fresh start later, he persevered and has been in LA ever since, working in the exciting world of reality TV. And ever since, he has wanted his mom and me to come for a visit. 

            I do not want to fly, and I have very creatively found a multitude of excuses not to drive to the strange and menacing world of California.  I remember the Esquire cover in 1970 that read, “Evil Lurks in California – Lee Marvin is Afraid.”  This cover, with the affrighted face of Lee Marvin, appeared less than a year after the Manson Family murders and has always tinted my worldview of California.

            Then, this past Christmas, Gardner gave Lee and me promissory airplane tickets to LA.  Somehow, bodysnatchers are my guess, I finally agreed to drive cross country.  There was the Cash Bar, there was my old hero, Jack Kerouac, there was an ancient desire to “See the USA,” there were the Joads (“We buried Grandma on the California side.”), there was Ma and Pa Kettle (if you remember them, your age is showing). And so somehow, I found myself locked into this Grand Adventure.  I could not help thinking of the old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles – often ends badly.” But, as Alec Trebek would enunciate precisely, “Say lah vee.” We leave in five days, and I plan to keep a Blog of our adventure – me, Lee and the Cash Bar in a Toyota Sienna minivan.

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